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Top 11 African Womenswear Designers You Need To Know

We’ve compiled a list of African womenswear designers and brands that stand out to us this year in celebration of African style.

African designers possess an innate awareness of style rooted in culture and tradition. The style aesthetics celebrate multiple ethnicities and nationalities; the garments are vibrant and electric.

Designers adhere strictly to standards of craftsmanship and design. They use textiles and prints to tell stories in an innovative way. They are passionate about displaying what home means to their global consumers.

In celebration of that, we’ve compiled a list of 11 African womenswear designers and brands that stand out to us this year. Take a look below.

1. Jermaine Bleu

Jason Asiedu is a Ghanaian designer whose work celebrates women’s curves and elegance. His garments flow effortlessly. His latest "Evolution" collection is meant to accompany the modern women from the start to end of her day. It is versatile and full of grace and poise. He is certainly a newcomer to watch.

2. Maki Oh

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Nigerian designer Amaka Osakwe’s label Maki Oh is comprised of intricately constructed pieces. She creates sexy clothing while combating what is conventionally deemed beautiful. Her garments so embrace the female physique that they have been worn by Michelle Obama, Lupita N'yongo, Solange Knowles, Leelee Sobieski, Alek Wek, Thandie Newton and Azaelia Banks. She fuses the aesthetics of her home and the West to create things that haven’t been seen in the realm of fashion. She is one of the continent’s most celebrated designers. Her upcoming Spring 2018 collection is sure to be nothing short of awe-inspiring.

3. Wana Sambo

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Nigeria's Wana Sambo produces timeless pieces for African woman like herself. The designer gives her consumers something they can feel sexy and confident in. She yearns for women to celebrate themselves at every stage in their life.

4. Bridget Awosika

Bridget Awosika hails from Lagos by way of Manhattan. Her collections speak to professionals and socialites alike. Her designs make their wearers feel ‘chic.’ They exude modern femininity. They are full of texture, movement, and sophistication.

5. Olori Swim

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Olori Swim was founded in Los Angeles by Nigerian couple Ibrahim Hasan and Dunnie Onasanya- Hasan. The brand celebrates all shapes and sizes of “melanin rich” women by providing them with luxury swimwear. It’s design are rich in color and call to mind royalty.

6. Recho Omondi

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Have you spotted those brightly colored sweatshirts on Issa Rae in Insecure episodes with the word “Niggas” hand stitched on them? Kenyan-American designer Recho Omondi is behind these masterpieces. Her eponymous brand thrives. It is well-constructed and makes it evident she is passionate about color, women and the black experience. Her garments sit upon models who look as unique as the pieces they wear.

7. William Okpo

Darlene and Lizzy Okpo started this brand named after their father in 2010. Their Nigerian parents’ style coupled with American culture serves as inspiration for their clothing. This juxtaposition gives way to an understanding of an immigrant’s sense of style.

8. Tongoro

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Senegalese media maven Sarah Diouf’s ready-to-wear label is based in Dakar and part of her push to keep making major waves in the fashion industry. It combines the care-free way of dressing in Senegal with that of Europeans. The label is comprised of pieces that are both playful and authentic.

9. Rich Factory

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Zambian designer Rina Chunga founded the contemporary label Rich Factory with a love of printed fabrics. In her factory based in Johannesburg, she deconstructs traditional silhouettes in wax print and turns them into unique pieces.

10. Gueras Fatim

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Senegalese-Guinean designer Fatoumata Guirassy tailors and embroiders impeccably. In 2015, she launched her line full of elegance and femininity. Much like the other designers on this list, she draws inspiration from her ancestry.

11. Nyorh Agwe

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Cameroonian designer Nyorh Agwe’s label is bold and eclectic. It celebrates individuality, while exploring the designer’s identity. The brand supports local artisans by being made in her homeland.

Interview

A Candid Conversation With Olamide & Fireboy DML

We talk to the Nigerian stars about the hardest lessons they've learned, best advice they've ever been given and what Nigeria means to them.

Olamide and Fireboy DML have been working together for three years, but the first time they sit down to do an interview together is hours after they arrive in New York City on a promo tour.

It's Fireboy's first time in the Big Apple — and in the US — and the rain that's pouring outside his hotel doesn't hinder his gratitude. "It's such a relief to be here, it's long overdue," he tells OkayAfrica. "I was supposed to be here last year, but Covid stopped that. This is a time to reflect and refresh. It's a reset button for me."

Olamide looks on, smiling assuredly. Since signing Fireboy to his YBNL Nation label in 2018, he's watched the soulful young singer rise to become one of Nigeria's most talked-about artists — from his breakout single, "Jealous," to his debut album Laughter, Tears & Goosebumps, hit collabs with D.Smoke and Cuppy, and his sophomore release, Apollo, last year.

Even while he shares his own latest record, UY Scuti, with the world, Olamide nurtures Fireboy's career with as much care and attention as he does his own, oscillating between his two roles of artist and label exec seamlessly. His 2020 album Carpe Diem is the most streamed album ever by an African rap artist, according to Audiomack, hitting over 140 million streams. When Olamide signed a joint venture with US-based record label and distribution company, Empire, in February last year he did so through his label, bringing Fireboy and any other artist he decides to sign along for the ride, and establishing one of the most noteworthy deals on the continent.

Below, Olamide & Fireboy DML speak to OkayAfrica about their mutual admiration for each other, what makes them get up in the morning and how they switch off.

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